Sharon Barnard interviews women to find out how Social Media has opened up doors to new ministry opportunities.
Evangelical Alliance Editor Amaris Cole is a member of the team behind threads, “a collective of Christians from all walks of life, who are living, working and trying to carve out our identity in our worlds”. This online community regularly attracts thousands of young adult readers, many of whom also engage with them via social media.
Four years ago, threads was started - this was following some terrifying research by Barna about the number of millennials leaving the Church. The Evangelical Alliance couldn’t sit by and watch this happen. After lots of research, hard work and a few false starts, threads was started as a community – primarily a blog – for those on the fringes of Church to talk about the issues that traditionally we shy away from: relationships, abuse, doubts, politics – the list goes on.
We wanted to create a safe space to discuss all of this – and show that it’s possible to be going through these issues, or thinking through these conflicts, and still have a faith in God.
We love how engaged the threads community is with what we’re doing. We now have more than 400 writers, and a loyal group of readers who read our posts daily and interact with us on social media. Last year 200 people attended various events we held.
But it’s not only young adults who have engaged with what we’re doing. Church leaders are also interested, so last year we launched training days to teach them all the things we’ve learnt during our first four years. There are simple changes church leaders can make to ensure millennials are welcomed and supported. They’ve been a huge success, and we’re planning another five training days this year.
The half a million hits the site got last year shows just how much this content is needed for millennials today. The Church has got better at talking about the issues that matter to this age group, but we’re still hearing our community tell us that this is the only place they are able to talk through some of these topics.
Over the last few summers we’ve been going to festivals and having space for people to explore their doubts and talk through some of those – many said this is the first time they’ve been able to voice these, and that it’s made their faith stronger.
Our biggest challenge has been to ensure we’re existing for those on the fringes of Church who might come back, rather than those in the Church that just have problems with the Church. There’s space for both, but we do have to constantly check that we aren’t just moaning – we are all the Church, and all have a responsibility to make it the place it was designed to be.
My biggest surprise is that this hasn’t been done before! All we’ve done is provide millennials with a space to speak about things going on in their lives without fear of judgement – and we don’t want to do this alone. We’d love churches to get alongside us: to use our posts as topics for small groups, to host threads events for their 20–30s groups or stock copies of our free magazines for young adults who are new to faith.
Our vision is for millennials in the UK – and even beyond – who left the Church when ‘life’ happened (the debt, depression, divorce…), to see that actually God is big enough to hold their questions and doubts. We want to show that faith and 21st century life are compatible. We want them to know Church is a place where all are welcome, regardless of their past.
+ Find out more at www.threadsuk.com
Why social media is useful
+ I love Instagram for sharing beautiful images and a more human side of the threads site. There we’re able to be creative, funny and cool. It’s also a great way of reminding our readers to check the blog for the latest post, as this age group check Instagram far more than they’d browse a website.
+ Twitter is another great tool for us, and the way that most people find our posts. The vast majority of our hits are via Twitter. Top tip: tweets with pictures are more eye-grabbing, so make sure you include one.
+ It’s a great place to show non-Christians that we are normal! Be present, be authentic and don’t be afraid to share your views.
More examples of social media ministries
Claire* has been blogging about family life and faith since 2007.
I started my blog as a kind of online diary, but began to notice there was a ‘hole’ in the blogging world. There were lots of fantastic Christian blogs and loads of great lifestyle blogs, but I found few that showed Christian life being lived out in the everyday norms of family life. I wanted my blog to somehow bridge the gap.
Once you have a voice that people are listening to there’s a huge responsibility to be an encouragement, to challenge and to make people think. My aim is always to point to Christ, even in the little things and to be honest about my own struggles.
I’ve had all sorts of responses from encouragement from Christians to curious questions from those who don’t yet know Jesus. When our youngest daughter was very ill, we had a huge amount of support through the blog, and it was a great opportunity to witness to God’s faithfulness in a really tough time.
I love blogs that display Christ through real living. My lovely friend Ruth writes over at One Little Drop (www.ruthvdb.co.uk) and her blog is heartachingly beautiful, honest and Christ-exalting.
I also love the www.athomepodcast.com podcast: four bloggers chatting about big issues from a Christian perspective. It’s fabulous and really gets me thinking!
+ Claire blogs at http://clarinascontemplations.blogspot.co.uk
*surname withheld to protect privacy
Angie Pollard from Guernsey uses Instagram to encourage her friends in their Christian faith.
Two of my friends started a private Instagram group and invited me and a couple of others to join. We post inspirational photos and messages which act as a boost for our daily walk with God. For example, today it was a photo from Moral Revolution: “Don’t make things bigger than they are.” We’ll often comment as well.
I meet one of these friends weekly for prayer, when we catch up on what God has been doing in our lives through the Instagram group and in other ways.
I also read and subscribe to a few blogs. I often reflect on what God is teaching me in my blog, which is more for personal reference than public reading or discussion.
I am a member of the Woman Alive Book Club and an offshoot ‘Christian e-book downloads’ to help keep up my reading.
+ The Woman Alive Book Club www.womanalive.co.uk/Book-Club